Mercedes Benoit-Penney has real concerns about how eye surgery has become so complicated in western Newfoundland and is especially concerned for seniors in the area.
Because she lives in Aguathuna on the Port au Port Peninsula, it’s close to a two-hour drive one way for both her and her husband, Bill Penney, who both have glaucoma, to have their eyes worked on in Corner Brook.
She said as seniors whose children have left the province, luckily both of them can still drive, and they take each other to ophthalmologist appointments.
Since their sight is in danger of deteriorating, their visits fall within the urgent category.
“Isn’t any eye affliction a matter of urgency and enough to warrant a visit in a timely manner?” Benoit-Penney asked.
She said she has had appointments changed to a later date and postponed until the weather makes is safer to get to her multiple checkups that will be required after her cataract and glaucoma surgery.
Benoit-Penney said if that surgery was available in Stephenville, she could avail of the procedure earlier, ensuring a timelier and healthier outcome.
She said the first ophthalmologist to treat her left the clinic in the last year and she thanks God he was replaced.
Benoit-Penney said even though Dr. Justin French is not her eye doctor, if he also leaves, hundreds of people will be at risk.
“You don’t have to be a genius to figure out the problem. What was once done in one trip is now being spread over two different days to better serve those who travel the greater distances,” she said.
Benoit-Penney said her nearly 400-km return trip doesn’t guarantee her a one-time visit and there are people travelling from much further communities than hers.
“You can visit this clinic any day of the week and see that patients are piled in like sardines, or like cattle for the slaughter,” she said.
She said with little exception, most waiting are in their senior years and many have other health problems that add to their discomfort.
Benoit-Penney said the majority sit and wait for no less than two hours, and up to four or five hours, to be seen.
“I assure you, a visit to the eye clinic is no picnic and to say the ophthalmologists are busy is an understatement,” she said.
Benoit-Penney said there should be eye specialists at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital in addition to Corner Brook to meet the needs of the baby boomer population and better service the large number of seniors in this vast area.
She said government representatives don’t seem to care about rural districts and look on them as a drain on the provincial economy, saying no to suggestions that might improve the system and wanting to spend the money in St. John’s.
“I’d love to see some news cameras in the clinic. I’ll be there Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. I’m sorry, no, my appointment was cancelled,” she quipped.